ABSTRACT: Interleukin 7 (IL-7) and T cell antigen receptor signals have been proposed to be the main drivers of homeostatic T cell proliferation. However, it is not known why CD4(+) T cells undergo less-efficient homeostatic proliferation than CD8(+) T cells do. Here we show that systemic IL-7 concentrations increased during lymphopenia because of diminished use of IL-7 but that IL-7 signaling on IL-7 receptor-alpha-positive (IL-7Ralpha(+)) dendritic cells (DCs) in lymphopenic settings paradoxically diminished the homeostatic proliferation of CD4(+) T cells. This effect was mediated at least in part by IL-7-mediated downregulation of the expression of major histocompatibility complex class II on IL-7Ralpha(+) DCs. Our results indicate that IL-7Ralpha(+) DCs are regulators of the peripheral CD4(+) T cell niche and that IL-7 signals in DCs prevent uncontrolled CD4(+) T cell population expansion in vivo.
Nature Immunology 02/2009; 10(2):149-57. · 26.01 Impact Factor